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State health issue poll points to COVID worry, weed legalization

Muhlenberg College has completed its annual Public Health Program Poll of Pennsylvanians on public health issues. This year’s survey examined topics that included the COVID-19 outbreak and the performance of President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic; health care reform; heroin addiction; immunizations; and marijuana legalization. The survey marks the ninth year of this initiative that is a partnership between the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and the Muhlenberg College Public Health Program.

Key findings

• Over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of Pennsylvanians remain “extremely” or “very” concerned about the public health situation, yet six in 10 agree that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

• As of late March 2021, about two out of three Pennsylvanians who had not yet received at least one COVID-19 immunization plan to become immunized. However, about three in 10 adult residents of the Commonwealth who were not immunized indicated they do not plan to receive the vaccine. Among Pennsylvania Republicans who had not received the vaccine, half (50 percent) don’t plan to ever get immunized.

• “Among Pennsylvanians who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine, most plan to become immunized,” says Chris Borick, director of the Institute of Public Opinion. “However a significant portion of unimmunized residents of the state, and particularly those that are registered Republicans, indicate they do not plan to ever receive the vaccine.”

• A majority (54 percent) of Pennsylvanians approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic, but opinion is highly divided on Governor Tom Wolf’s work in this area, with 40 percent approving, and 41 percent disapproving of Wolf’s performance on this issue.

• “While President Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 response is generally well-received by Pennsylvanians. Governor Wolf’s efforts on this matter produce much more divided reviews by residents of the Commonwealth,” says Borick. “A year of crisis governing may have taken a toll on his standing in this key policy area.”

• A record level (58 percent) of adult Pennsylvanians support the legalization of marijuana in the commonwealth, marking the eighth consecutive wave of this survey that support for legalization has increased in the state. “The trend on public support for legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania is clear, with support growing for the eighth year in a row,” says Borick. “As the state government considers this policy option, the public is increasingly coming to the conclusion that they support legalization.”

• About six out of 10 adult Pennsylvanians (61 percent) believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.

• Just under one in five adult Pennsylvanians reported that during the past two months they had problems with their work or regular daily activities as a result of emotional problems, such as feeling depressed or anxious.

See the complete survey at https://www.muhlenberg.edu/aboutus/polling/surveys/publichealth/2021-aprilpublichealthsurvey/

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